To advocate for their rights to be protected, respected and fulfilled, it is crucial that young people are provided with a better understanding of equality and the tools available to them to tackle the discrimination they face. And national equality bodies have a big role to play in this picture! The Equinet Handbook on Stepping Up our Engagement with Youth gives practical suggestions on how!
According to the 2019 Barometer on Discrimination in the EU, in 2018, one in four young people aged 15 to 24 had personally felt discriminated or experienced harassment. If you zoom in on certain characteristics, the numbers double, with 15-17 year old LGBTIQ persons having experienced discrimination in at least one area of life, or one out of two 16-24 year old person of colour experiencing racially motivated police stops.
And yet, despite these high numbers of youth experiencing discrimination, very few young people report such discrimination or harassment to national equality bodies. This mismatch is most likely due to a lack of awareness of their rights or the existence of institutions such as equality bodies, where they could turn to for support. So, something needs to be done to raise young people’s awareness about their rights relating to equality and non-discrimination and the support they can access in this fight…
Beyond their personal experience of discrimination, young people can be passionate and very effective advocates for equality and non-discrimination. Just think of the awareness raised by Malala Yousafzai on gender equality in education for example. If we treat young people as champions of equality and non-discrimination, and give them the tools that empower them as such, they will be able to explore and act to effectively develop their identities, interests, and ambitions around the themes of equality and non-discrimination. And some national equality bodies in Europe have already tapped into this potential.
For example, the Defender of Rights in France has created a community of Young Ambassadors for Rights, who are being trained and supervised by the Defender to raise awareness of their rights to other young people. In Ireland, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has worked closely with the National Youth Council of Ireland to hear the youth vision for a more just and equal society, free from racial discrimination. This work has contributed to the feedback given to the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination during their examination of Ireland. The ways to engage with young people on issues of equality and non-discrimination are only as limited as our imaginations…
Equality bodies play a central role in promoting equality and in fighting discrimination experienced by young people in many fields. Equality bodies are mandated to assist victims of discrimination and raise awareness of rights. At European level, equality bodies report a spectrum of key issues that affect young people, including issues of economic, political, cultural and social inequality. Yet, their capacity to assist youth victims of discrimination and to raise awareness of rights among young people is often limited by their mandates, under-reporting and lack of casework, as well as absence of data at national level.
Nevertheless, as Equinet’s growing body of work on tackling discrimination against young people can attest to, there are many options for equality bodies to work on this topic. How?
To help you step up your engagement with youth, the Equinet Working Group on Communication Strategies and Practices has developed a useful Handbook to guide you through this process. It aims to help equality bodies to better understand what equality means to young people in practice, to involve young people and their organisations in developing and sharing good practices, as well as to raise awareness of rights under equal treatment legislation with initiatives specifically designed for young people.
May this guide, with its case studies and practical tips, enable you to develop new protection and promotion actions, to exchange with your colleagues in other institutions, and to draw on the energy of young people to innovate!